My father was a Vietnam Veteran (that’s him in the middle in the picture). He served in the Army first and then chose to go into the Navy. He served two tours in Vietnam as a radar technician on the USS Boston. After his time in the Navy, he relocated to Vermont and became a game warden. Subsequently, he went on to serve nearly 20 years as a police officer and deputy sheriff. He was my hero. His humility, heart, and commitment for serving others taught me so much about what being of service means. His experience as a veteran taught me why thanking our veterans matters.
A Non-Welcoming Welcome Back
My Dad didn’t say a whole lot about his tours in Vietnam. What happened over there for him is most definitely a mystery to me in a lot of ways. The things that I do know about that time for him is how much he loved his “Navy buddies,” fellow “Salty Dogs” or “Squids.” And how horrible his return home was. He was greeted by sneers, judgment, anger, and spat on by complete strangers who didn’t agree with the war. There was no celebration, parade, gratitude for his service. And I know that it broke his heart. He never said whether he personally agreed with being there (that I can recall). But it was a fulfilling a service to his country, and for him, that’s what mattered.
The Vet Center and War Movies
My Dad would go to a place I remember as the “Vet Center.” I’m not sure if it was the VFW or something different. He would go to connect with other veterans that would understand things that we, as his family, just simply couldn’t. But I wanted to. I wanted to understand more of what he went through. Of what he saw. Of what he experienced. Watching war movies, he’d oftentimes be engrossed in them. It was like he was transported back to a time that none of us could understand, but familiar to him. It was comforting for him in some ways.
For as long as I can remember, my father would be sure to say “welcome home” to any Vietnam Vet he encountered. I will never forget being witness to those handshakes, the way they instantly connected, the emotion that passed between them. It’s a huge part of what taught me that thanking our veterans matters. I’ve greeted many a Vietnam Veteran by sharing that my Dad was a Vietnam Vet too, and have said my own, “welcome homes” to them. I’ve been met with awkward thank you’s, hugs, conversation, and sharing.
My Gratitude Goes Beyond Vietnam Veterans
I have an affinity for the veterans who served during that time because of my father, but it doesn’t stop there. I honor and thank all veterans. And I married one. A Marine, who served two tours in Iraq. A man who is also as humble about his service as my father was and who I am equally as proud of.
Thanking Our Veterans Matters
My husband and I show our thanks to veterans in different ways. I am quick to say thank you and welcome home to the servicemen and women I come in contact with. I’ll sometimes re-route myself in the grocery store just so I can. My husband donates to different organizations that support veteran employment, mental health support and other resources. We both try and do business with veteran-owned businesses as much as we can.
There are different schools of thought on whether we should thank veterans and here’s what I believe. Our thank you’s matter. I believe it causes a ripple effect of gratitude for those who’ve sacrificed so much for us in their service to our country. And even if met with less exuberance than our heartfelt thank you’s, it’s ok. Each veteran we encounter has their own story, and it’s my hope that our thank you’s have more of a positive impact than not.
If you’ve got a veteran in your life, check out this awesome guide to all the Veteran’s Day deals out there. And, please thank them for their service for me.